Busy Signal is dancehall’s last great showman. Not last as in the last one standing, but last as in after they made him, they stopped making more like him. Busy first bussed at the end of dancehall’s last great wave in the mid 2000s and, in the year since, performance chops have taken a backseat to studio hustle, hype and everything else. Watch Busy work a stage, though, and you’ll see a polish and precision you tend to only get from artists who came up when performance was everything.
If you’re a dancehall enthusiast from the U.S., you might never know this. Busy’s never played in the States, for once-unclear reasons which became evident when he was extradited to the U.S. in 2012 to face criminal charges that predate his career. So his performance aboard the Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise—that floating reggae festival curated by Damian Marley which set sail from Miami to Jamaica and back last month—was a big deal. And, naturally, he killed it, delivering a set that was easily among the best of the five-night fest.
Busy might not be welcome in the U.S., but he logs more miles than most. One region where he has made his mark is in Africa, where he’s become a huge draw in countries such as Uganda and Kenya. He has catered to the African market in a way no other Caribbean artist has, using African rhythms in his music and remixing popular songs from the continent: tracks like “Da Style Deh,” ‘Same Way,” and “Professionally” play from Ghana to Guyana.
We caught up with Busy after his electrifying Jamrock Cruise performance for a seaborne conversation about his travels, his personal philosophy and his next musical maneuver. Maestro…